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The Covenant of Incarnation: A Novena Reflection

I have given Thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation
even to the farthest part of the earth. — Isaiah 49:6.

Consider that the Eternal Father addressed these words to the Infant Jesus at the instant of his conception: I have given Thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation. My Son, I have given Thee to the world for the light and life of all people, in order that Thou mightest procure for them their salvation, which I have as much at heart as if it were my own. Thou must therefore employ Thyself entirely for the well-being of men: “Wholly given to man, Thou must be wholly spent in his service.” [Read more…]

Who Was St. Nicholas, and Did He Bring Children Gifts?

Is it even Christmas if someone doesn’t pause to ask, “Wait, who was St. Nick?”

As is common, legends outweigh historically known facts. Here’s what we do know about St. Nicholas and why some of our Christmas traditions are tied to his name.

About St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas has always been one of the more popular saints of the Church. Nonetheless, the only certain fact we know of his life is that he was Bishop of Myra in ancient Lycia (now modern Dembre in Turkey), during the first half of the fourth century.

Tradition has it that he was born in Patara in Lycia, in about 270, and that he died on December 6, between 345 and 352. Justinian I (emperor 526–65) built a church in his honor during the early sixth century. In 1087, Italian soldiers stole the saint’s body from Myra and transported it by sea to Bari, and the saint’s cult then spread quickly throughout Italy and the rest of Europe.

Numerous legends arose about his liberality, the most famous being his secretly providing dowries for three poor girls. Thus, he is often depicted with three bags of gold. Because of this legend, St. Nicholas became, in Europe, the secret bringer of presents to children on the eve of his feast. In English-speaking countries, his name has become corrupted into Santa Claus, the bringer of gifts to children on Christmas Eve.1

Patron saint of sailors, children, and Russia

St. Nicholas is regarded as the patron saint of sailors, and churches under his dedication are often built so that they can be seen off the coast as landmarks. He is also the patron saint of children, bringing them gifts on December 6 (whence “Santa Claus,” an American corruption of “Sante Klaas,” the Dutch for “Saint Nicholas”). He is also the patron saint of Russia. His Feast day is December 6.2

St. Nicholas in art

Fra Angelico did a marvelous series of paintings based on his life:

 

 

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